Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency - Case studies: understanding the Code of conduct
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Case studies: understanding the Code of conduct

Code of conduct

The shared Code of conduct

The shared Code of conduct (the code) can help you understand what you can expect from registered health practitioners and if your care meets professional standards. The code includes things like treating patients with respect regardless of culture, beliefs or choices; providing culturally safe care; and maintaining privacy and confidentiality.

Registered health practitioners have a responsibility to be familiar with their code and to apply it.

The code applies to practitioners regulated by 12 National Boards. These practitioners are:

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners
  • Chinese medicine practitioners
  • chiropractors
  • dental practitioners
  • medical radiation practitioners
  • occupational therapists
  • optometrists
  • osteopaths
  • paramedics
  • pharmacists
  • physiotherapists
  • podiatrists and podiatric surgeons

The code does not apply to the medical practitioners, midwives, nurses or psychologists who have profession-specific codes of conduct and ethics.

Case studies

The following case studies are designed to help you understand how the shared Code of conduct applies to the practitioners who provide your health care.

The shared Code of conduct does not apply to the following professions:

Case summary

Julie sees a practitioner who explains her condition to her. The practitioner also explains the recommended treatment. Julie hasn’t heard of the condition before and doesn’t know very much about it, or the treatment being recommended. Julie asks her practitioner to explain the condition again and what she should expect of the treatment.

What the code says

The code says that practitioners should listen to you and give you information about your health in a way you understand.


The practitioner gives Julie more information about her condition and tells her what happens during the recommended treatment. They talk about treatment options, what the possible side effects might be and what is likely to happen if she doesn’t have any treatment. 

The practitioner asks Julie if she understands and whether she has any more questions. The practitioner gives Julie some written information about her condition and the recommended treatment. Julie is also given information about the likely cost of the treatment and where she can find more information online. 

The National Scheme’s definition of cultural safety has been included in the revised shared code as well as guidance on how you can ensure culturally safe and respectful practice. This inclusion highlights the important role registered practitioners have in achieving equity in health outcomes between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and other Australians to close the gap.

Case summary

Rosie, a 24-year-old Aboriginal woman, wants to see a new practitioner at a health care centre in the rural community where she lives. Rosie has an ongoing health condition that needs regular care. She feels nervous about seeing a new practitioner and discussing culturally safe care because she had a poor experience with another practitioner recently. The other practitioner did not provide culturally safe care as he was not willing to work closely with Rosie’s family who are helping her at home. This made Rosie feel uncomfortable as she wasn’t being listened to or receiving culturally safe care and she is worried this will happen again.

What the code says

The code says that practitioners should provide culturally safe care if you are an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Person.


Rosie needs to fill in a ‘new patient form’, a staff member offers to answer any questions Rosie has about the form and tells Rosie’s that her practitioner will take time to help with any questions that Rosie might be unsure about. Rosie fills in the form including the question asking if she identifies as an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Person. Rosie answers that she identifies as an Aboriginal woman. 

When the new practitioner meets Rosie, he explains that he is aware that Rosie is Aboriginal and tells her that he wants to work with her to make sure he provides culturally safe care. Rosie is relieved that she didn’t have to bring up cultural safety with the practitioner. 

Rosie tells the practitioner that she is more comfortable if relatives who are helping her can come with her to her appointments for support. After listening to Rosie, the practitioner asks if anyone is with her now. Rosie says her sister is waiting in reception. The practitioner asks if Rosie would like him to invite her sister into the room and explains to Rosie that he understands the importance of working with family and community. The practitioner tells Rosie that he will work to support the involvement of family in her care. This helps Rosie to feel that she can discuss culturally safe care with the practitioner.

Case summary

Ameena sees a practitioner for treatment and when they are discussing her health concern the practitioner mentions an x-ray of her broken leg. Ameena is confused and tells the practitioner that she has never had a broken leg. The practitioner checks the date of birth recorded on the x-ray and realises that the x-ray has been filed in the wrong patient file. 

What the code says

The code says that practitioners should explain if things go wrong and work with you to fix them. 


The practitioner tells Ameena that the x-ray of another patient with the same name has been put in Ameena’s patient file by mistake. They tell Ameena that they will have the x-ray removed from her file and included in the correct patient file. They also tell Ameena that they will find out how the mistake happened. 

A month later Ameena receives a phone call from the practitioner. The practitioner apologises again for the mistake and tells Ameena that the x-ray has been removed from her file. They also explain that to help prevent the mistake from happening again staff have had more training about the need to check a patient’s name, date of birth and address before they file test results.

Case summary

Ricky has seen a practitioner for treatment for low back pain a few times over the past three years. The low back pain returns after he moves to a different town, so he decides to see a new practitioner for treatment. 

The new practitioner wants to see Ricky’s health records from his previous practitioner to help give Ricky good care. 

What the code says

The code says that practitioners should maintain your privacy and confidentiality and keep records about your care. 


The new practitioner asks Ricky to sign a form giving permission for his patient records to be shared and sends the signed form to Ricky’s previous practitioner.

Ricky’s previous practitioner contacts Ricky and explains that there is a fee for copying and providing patient records. Ricky pays the fee and his patient records are provided. 


For more information about the code please visit the Ahpra website.

Page reviewed 29/06/2022